Freshmen Arina Khlopkova (career-best 20 points) Katia Gallegos (13 points, career-high eight rebounds) Avery Crouse (career-best 11 points) all had big nights to help lead the UTEP women’s basketball team to a 71-68 victory against Georgia State in its final game of the Eighth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic Saturday evening.
The Miners (6-1) forced 20 turnovers, including Khlopkova drawing a charge late in the game, to help topple the upset-minded Panthers (1-5). At 6-1, UTEP is off to the best start of the Kevin Baker era but Georgia State didn’t make it easy. There were eight ties and nine lead changes in a back-and-forth battle.
It was tied at 68 with 1:42 to play when Gallegos split through traffic for the go-ahead lay-up. Georgia State missed a pair of shots to either tie or retake the lead late, and Khlopkova put the finishing touches on the win with a free throw with seven seconds left.
“Hats off to Georgia State, I thought they played a terrific game,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They gave us a heck of a game out there. I’m really proud the way that we gutted out the win. Our young kids really stepped up. They did fantastic. I’m not surprised. They’re all very talented.”
UTEP overcame an off shooting night (37.1 percent) by taking care of business at the charity stripe (19-24, 79.2 percent) and turning up the pressure to force the aforementioned 20 turnovers.
Sabine Lipe came off the bench to chip in four points, four rebounds and four assists while Ariana Taylor netted six points to go along with two boards. UTEP took good care of the ball, committing only 11 turnovers.
Georgia State was led by Taylor Hosendove’s huge double-double (21 points, 19 rebounds). Jada Lewis (17 points) and Tehya Lyons (10 points) also reached double figures for the Panthers.
The visitors got out quickly, securing an 14-9 cushion with 3:30 to play in the opening frame. UTEP struck back with seven straight points, including five courtesy of Khlopkova, to grab a two-point cushion (16-14) late in the frame. Georgia State connected on a triple in the final minute of the frame to carry a 17-16 edge into the second quarter of play.
GSU was up by two (23-21) with 6:22 left before UTEP blitzed the Panthers with eight straight points to suddenly go up by six (29-23). It was back-and-forth the remainder of the half, with the Miners armed with an eight-point advantage (42-34) through 20 minutes of action. The Orange and Blue outscored GSU, 26-17, in the frame.
The Panthers opened up the second half with an 8-2 surge to cut UTEP’s advantage down to two (44-42) and prompt Baker to call timeout. The Miners got a basket from Jade Rochelle out of the break. After a score from GSU, Zec drilled the corner triple to put the home side back out by five. It was cut to two (49-47), but once again UTEP had a response.
This time it was four straight free throws, which helped the Miners eventually maintain a three-point margin (57-54) through three quarters.
It remained a three-point differential (59-56) early in the fourth quarter before GSU tallied five straight to take its first lead since the opening quarter at 61-59. It was a seesaw battle the rest of the way, with the Miners emerging victorious.
UTEP will shoot for its fourth straight win when it plays host to Weber State at 7 p.m. MT Thursday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
For complete coverage of UTEP women’s basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post